After back to back years of correctly guessing 19 out 24 (two years running, my personal career best) in my annual Oscar precognitive ritual, I ended with just a measly 16 right last year (an all-time low). Well, as they say, another year, another chance (they do say that, right?). Anyway, without further ado, and in the hopes of reaching that elusive 20 out of 24 threshold, here are my final Oscar predictions.
Best Picture - The Artist
This is pretty much a no-brainer at this point. The Descendants had been the frontrunner early on, but now only a crazy person would pick something else to win. I would love to see The Tree of Life or Hugo take home this prize (and if I had my druthers one of them would) but that surely is not happening. This year will be the year of The Artist.
Best Director - Michel Hazanivicius for The Artist
For a while it looked as if Scorsese would be taking home his second Oscar, even if The Artist were to take home the top prize, but after victories at both the BAFTAS and the DGA (the two most accurate precursors in this case), it looks to be M. Hazanavicius' year.
Best Actor - Jean Dujardin in The Artist
Seriously, this looks to be shaping up to be the year of The Artist. Granted, this is really a two way race, between the Frenchman and George Clooney (who had been all but the sure bet about a month ago), but with several victories under his belt, including the BAFTA, it looks like The Artist will make a clean sweep of these top three awards.
Best Actress - Viola Davis in The Help
Now on with one of the less sure bet categories. Many are saying this is a two way race between Davis and La Streep in The Iron Lady. Early on it looked as if Davis would go supporting (she is not the lead here, Emma Stone is) but after the campaign for lead began (a category where she would not have to compete with her costars) the steam began to roll. Streep on the other hand, is a legend with two Oscars already under her belt (the last one waaay back in 1982) and she is playing that stalwart of Oscar winning, an actual historical figure. In the end, obviously, I am going with Davis. Unlike Halle Barry's win back in 2001, which may have been just white guilt, Davis does a phenomenal job in a much less than phenomenal picture - and a thing like that actually helps. Then again, Hollywood does love when someone in Hollywood plays someone else in Hollywood, and therefore Michelle Williams' turn as Marilyn Monroe could surprise. I actually almost went with her in the end.
Best Supporting Actor - Christopher Plummer in Beginners
Back to another no-brainer. Probably the biggest no-brainer of the bunch. Back in December and early January, there was nary a reasonable voice claiming that Albert Brooks would not take home this award. Gradually Plummer took over the frontrunner status, and then to top it off Brooks was not nominated. What!!? But yeah, this is Plummer's award. A veteran actor (at 82 he will become the oldest Oscar winner Sunday night) with only one previous nomination (and that was just two years ago) this could be looked at as a lifetime achievement kind of thing, but considering how great of a performance he gives it is a worthy victory after all.
Best Supporting Actress - Octavia Spencer in The Help
This is a category that could go many ways. Spencer is considered the safe bet, and I am going with her, but it would not be a surprise to hear Melissa McCarthy's name called either. The supporting categories are more likely to go to a comedic role than the leads (think Marisa Tomei's surprise win in 92 or Kevin Kline's in 88) but then again, her performance may be a bit too raunchy for the decidedly older Academy membership. We could also see Bérénice Bejo take home the award if The Artist plays the sweep card. I suppose I will go with the safe bet here though, and leave the more daring guesses for other categories.
Best Original Screenplay - Woody Allen for Midnight in Paris
Best Adapted Screenplay - Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash for The Descendants
In another safe bet, I am picking the two WGA winners here. Allen is the safer bet indeed though The Artist or even Bridesmaids could surprise, but only in sweep mode. In the more open Adapted race, I think people are going to want to vote for The Descendants somewhere on their ballot, and since Clooney has fallen from frontrunner status in Best Actor, this would be the most reasonable spot to do so. Then again, the screenplay for Moneyball (my own personal choice) that was written by Aaron Sorkin and Steve Zaillian (the two best writers working in Hollywood today!) could surprise and take the award, even though back to back wins in this category (Sorkin won last year for The Social Network) is a rarity, having happened only twice in 83 years. Another surprise could be a win for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
Best Foreign Language Film - A Separation (Iran)
Conventional wisdom would say to go with the frontrunner A Separation. The Iranian film has won pretty much every precursor this year, so who wouldn't pick it to win. Of course considering that Biutiful, A Prophet, The Class, Pan's Labyrinth, Paradise Now, Hero and Amélie were all frontrunners and none of them took home the Oscar, one could make a fair assumption that such a thing could happen again. This is the category with the most instances of upsets, but then A Separation is a pretty bold frontrunner to get knocked off. In going with this trend (which of course does not happen every year) I had a tough time deciding between this Iranian film and the more traditional choice of In Darkness, a film about that old stalwart of the Oscars, the Holocaust - as well as a film that may play to the older Academy members. In the end though, A Separation is probably just too obvious to be upset.
Here is another one that I was tempted to go out on a limb for and pick Chico & Rita over the more sensible choice of Rango. The Adventures of Tintin was the logical frontrunner early on (it won the Golden Globe) but once it was snubbed on nomination morning, Rango took over the lead status. We could see a surprise here since Rango is not that strong of a frontrunner (though still the best of the nominees), and the likely surprise is the aforementioned Cuban film.
Best Cinematography - The Tree of Life
Best Art Direction - Hugo
Best Film Editing - The Artist
The fabulous The Tree of Life has got to win something here, right!? Cinematography is the most logical spot for that to happen, though the slick silvery nuances of The Artist could take the prize. Then again, this category has only synced up with Best Picture once in the past decade (Slumdog Millionaire in 2008), so perhaps Hugo or even The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo would be a more reliable surprise. But still, the love for The Artist may still triumph everywhere. As to Art Direction, this is an award that usually goes to the most elaborately decorated film (the last two winners were Alice in Wonderland and Avatar) and Hugo certainly fits that bill - unless of course voters wish to reward the now finalized franchise of Harry Potter, or if The Artist is in sweep mode. As to Film Editing, it has synced up with BP six out of the last ten times, which kinda makes The Artist the frontrunner here, even though a film as sharply edited as The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo could surprise.
Best Costume Design - Hugo
Best Make-up - The Iron Lady
Costume Design is an award that more oft than not is awarded to the most elaborate costuming. This is why we see so many winners from films set in the Victorian or Elizabethan ages. The last six awards have gone to just such films (if one can count Alice in Wonderland as Victorian age rather than straight fantasy). Of course we have also seen wins for The Aviator, Chicago and Moulin Rouge (yeah, that last one is technically Victorian age, but still with a more modern flair) so a victory for Hugo over something like Jane Eyre or Anonymous would not be all that far fetched. And it is three-time winner Sandy Powell, who is very well respected in Hollywood. Then again, there is that possible Artist sweep mode I keep throwing about and it is set around the same time. Then we cannot count out Madonna's royal love story, W.E. Basically, what I am trying to say is that this is probably the one and only true 5-way race in the bunch. As for Make-up, they have gone the monster route (The Wolfman, Pan's Labyrinth, Star Trek, LOTR twice) as well as the old man/woman route (La vie en Rose, Benjamin Button, Elizabeth) and there is really no telling which route they will take. Harry Potter could get a franchise-wrapping win here but I still think The Iron Lady is the one to beat.
Best Original Score - The Artist
Best Original Song - "Man or Muppet" from The Muppets
Ludovic Bource's score for The Artist, though rife with controversy over its sampling of past film scores, most notably Vertigo (something Kim Novak has equated with rape!?), has won most every award this year and I do not think that will end any differently come Sunday night. And a Muppets victory for Best Song (a contest of just two nominees) is a pretty solid bet as well.
Best Sound Editing - Hugo
Best Visual Effects - Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Usually the old story goes that the loudest movie will win the sound awards, which I guess technically would mean victories for The Transformers, but I do not see that happening. Hugo, with its leading eleven nominations is bound to take home several awards, so the two sound ones will more likely go to that film than any other. Though a victory for Drive's lone nomination would be fun to see. And I do not think we should count Spielberg's War Horse out of the race just quite yet (a lot of voters will want to give that film something) - or for that matter, we probably should not count out that Tattooed lady either. If voters wanted to award the entire franchise, then Visual Effects could easily go to Harry Potter but if they haven't given them the award yet (only three of the seven films have even been nominated) then they probably won't bother to do it now. I think the work done in Rise of the Planet of the Apes is the most worthy and the most likely as well.
Best Documentary Feature - Undefeated
This is a pretty wide open race here, with films like Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory and Wim Wenders' Pina in the running. Some have kindly asked the Academy not to nominate Paradise Lost 3, due to the series' rather seedy history, but that doesn't mean they listened - oh yeah, I guess they did not. It's in the headlines story could give it the victory here but I think the emotional high of Undefeated (no, not the Sarah Palin thing) will pull off the eventual victory. But again, this is a tough call indeed.
Best Documentary Short Subject - Saving Face
Best Animated Short Film - The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
Best Live Action Short Film - The Shore
In my opinion, these three are anybody's guess, so I am just throwing out some guesses and hoping they land near their intended targets. I have been relatively successful at this, going 5 for the last 7 in both Animated and Live Action predictions - not so much in Documentary. So who knows what will happen.
Well that's it for now. All that is left is to wait and see who the winners will be. I am confident in only about half of my picks (perhaps semi confident in another 5 or 6) but I am still hoping for that ever elusive 20 out of 24 (or even better) score. I will be back on Monday with a round-up and tally-ho of how I did, or rather how well the Academy did in trying to predict my predictions.